The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Lesson 1

Heavenly Father Reveals His Gospel in Every Dispensation

The Missionaries Will Teach...

One way that God shows His love for us is by calling prophets.  Prophets are given the power and authority to act as God's official representatives for the salvation of His children.  God tells prophets about His plan of happiness through revelation.  The prophets in turn teaches the gospel to others and testify that Jesus Christ is the savior and redeemer of mankind.  The teachings of prophets are found in holy books called the scriptures.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the name of God's plan for us to be happy and successful in this life, and return to live with him in the next.  The atonement of Jesus Christ is the center of this plan.  Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive eternal life by having faith, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (see 2 Nephi 31:21).  All people have the gift of agency, which means they have the freedom to accept or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by His prophets.  If you choose to accept the gospel, you will be blessed.  If you ignore, reject, or distort the gospel, then you won't receive these promised blessings.

Whenever people choose to ignore, distort, disobey, any gospel principle, reject God's chosen prophets, or fail to endure in faith, they distance themselves from God and enter a state of spiritual darkness.  This eventually leads to a state called apostasy.  When widespread apostasy occurs, God withdraws His priesthood authority to teach and perform gospel ordinances.

Biblical history has many examples of God speaking to prophets.  It also has many examples of apostasy.  Each period of apostasy eventually ends by God showing his love for humanity by calling new prophets, and giving them the authority to teach and administer the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Essentially, prophets act as a steward responsible for managing God's earthly household.  Periods of time that are headed by prophetic leadership are called dispensations.

God revealed the gospel of Jesus Christ to Adam and gave him the authority of the priesthood.  Adam learned about God the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  Adam and Eve taught these truths to their children and encouraged them to follow God's plan of happiness for families.  Other prophets followed Adam, but eventually the posterity of Adam decided to reject the gospel and fell into apostasy.

That is how the first prophetic dispensation came to pass, and the pattern is repeated throughout the history of the Old Testament. God revealed the plan of happiness for families to Noah, Abraham, and Moses.  They were each called by Heavenly Father to begin a new dispensation.  They were each given the priesthood power and authority to act in God's name.  But sadly, in each dispensation people eventually chose to reject the gospel and the dispensation ended with apostasy.

Some Additional Thoughts...

As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown since its establishment, of course it has evolved and changed.  And there has been disagreement about whether or not these changes are driven by new and important things being revealed to the living prophets, or whether they are driven by the leaders of the church ignoring, rejecting, and distorting the gospel.  Does the pattern of revelation and apostasy continue, or is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints immune from the pattern that is repeated throughout scriptural history?

The Community of Christ: Official Home Site.  This church was formed by early Mormons, who rejected Brigham Young as the rightful successor of Joseph Smith.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  (The name is "Latter Day" as opposed to the spelling of the Utah church, "Latter-day") This group believes that a few days before Joseph Smith died, he appointed James J. Strang to be his successor and that the authentic priesthood authority flows through Strang's successors.

Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a apparently a shoot-off from the Community of Christ.  In describing how they are different from the Utah church they say, "We do not now, nor have we believed the Lord ever directed many spurious doctrines such as progression, multiplicity of gods, Adam as a god, polygamy, and many unscriptural temples ordinances foreign to the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Latter Day Revelation given through Joseph Smith Jr. and his true successors in office."

Predators, Prey, and Other Kinfolk: Growing Up in Polygamy by Dorothy Allred Solomon.  This is a fascinating memoir of the daughter of prominent Mormon Fundamentalist.  It includes a history of how her grandfather came to the conclusion that the mainstream church ignored, distorted, and rejected the fundamental points of the gospel and was in a state of apostasy.


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